Neurology services are stretched, underfunded and have been overlooked for years. Too many people with MS weren’t getting the vital support they needed before the pandemic – now the situation is critical. MS can be relentless, painful and disabling. An MS Society survey found that many people with MS’ symptoms got worse during the pandemic and half said that a reduction in specialist support contributed to this.
An increasing number of people are waiting to start essential neurology treatment. Our waiting lists were unacceptable before Covid-19 and those lists continue to grow. In 2015, 9,123 people were waiting for an initial appointment with a consultant neurologist, the number waiting is now 21,469 with over 15,000 of those people waiting over a year to be seen. We cannot pretend that people will not come to harm while waiting to be seen. It’s a situation that needs immediate action and a dedicated focus.
Professionals are doing their best – but there simply aren't enough of them. We need a plan to restore and improve neurology services in Northern Ireland, and build a thriving, sustainable neurology workforce. The neuro review is underway and being driven by the same clinical staff so badly needed to see patients. Those clinicians need help and resources to complete the Review and we need a commitment to the necessary investment in the future of our neurology services from yourself and the Executive. We must move now and move quickly to create a better, safer and more sustainable service.
With the right support and funding, there are huge opportunities for neurology services to innovate and deliver better care to the thousands of people living with neurological conditions in Northern Ireland.
We need you as Minister and your executive colleagues to take action urgently to address this crisis in #NeurologyNow to ensure everyone with MS has access to the right professionals and treatment at the right time.